Donor's Legacy Spans BFA History

In the heart of every philanthropist lies a desire to make a difference that outlasts their own lifetime. We recently sat down with Michael Henley, a dedicated member of Books For Africa's Legacy Society and former board member, to discuss the profound impact of planned giving and how it can shape the future of our organization.

Michael's journey with Books For Africa began over three decades ago when he was invited to join the cause by a board member. From that moment on, he became deeply involved, contributing not only financially but also with his time and expertise. His passion for our mission took him to deliver books personally in Tanzania witnessing firsthand the transformative power of education.

Our conversation began with a reflection on the beginnings of Books for Africa three decades ago. Michael vividly described the organization's early days, operating from the apartment of its executive director—a stark contrast to its current form. Stepping in as a fundraising consultant, Michael played an important role in shaping BFA's trajectory by crafting its first fundraising plan. His commitment extended beyond consultancy as he transitioned to a dedicated board member, serving diligently for approximately 8 to 9 years. Over the years, Michael's involvement evolved, assuming the board president role and chair of the development committee. Since 1997, he has continued his unwavering support as a dedicated donor.

When asked about Books For Africa's success, Michael emphasized the organization's relentless focus on its core mission: getting books into the hands of those who need them most. In his words: "There's a need everywhere in the world and I believe that Books For Africa has succeeded, because they have stayed focused". Despite the vast challenges, Books For Africa has sent an astounding 60 million books to Africa, making a tangible difference in countless lives.

But perhaps the most touching part of Michael's story is his advocacy for planned giving. With genuine warmth and sincerity, he encourages others to consider the profound impact they can make by including Books For Africa in their estate plans. It's a message rooted in love and generosity, reminding us that true wealth lies not in what we possess, but in the legacy of kindness and compassion we leave behind.

"By including Books For Africa in my will, I'm making a statement about what I stood for as a person, what I believed in, and what my values were". He and Randi Yoder, his wife, have designated 30% of their estate to go to charity. "We told our children about this; and they understand that not all of our estate will go to them.  We want the organizations we supported and were involved with for years to benefit, and hopefully our children will pass this lesson to organizations they will be involved with."

He also encourages others to consider doing the same, highlighting the importance of having a plan in place, regardless of age or wealth. Through simple steps like writing a two-sentence will, individuals can ensure that their assets are used to create lasting change. Especially for those who are young or have a young family, it is crucial to have a will and a plan in place for the care of their children or spouse in the event of their passing. Unfortunately, many people don't think about this. Without proper planning, the decision falls into the hands of the court. In such cases, distant relatives may appear as legal guardians, potentially unfamiliar to or disliked by the children, leading to uncertainty and potential disputes over guardianship.

In Michael's words: "Everyone has assets, even if it's not a home or apartment. You may own a car, some furnishings, savings, or a small retirement fund from your employment". The question then arises: "What do you intend to do with these assets? Would you like to have a plan in place for them? It's about being intentional with the assets we've accumulated over our lives, what plans do we have for these assets when we're no longer here? It's a reality we all face!"

People often say they want to do something meaningful and express their lifelong values. While they may not be able to make a significant gift during their lifetime, they have the opportunity to be remembered by giving their estate or part of it to a charity they believe in, such as Books For Africa.

"Books For Africa is a big part of my life, and I'm really happy to be part of it and staying with it. I'm in the ambassador circle now so I'm still involved and helping out."

In closing, Michael reminds us that the true measure of wealth lies not in what we accumulate during our lifetime but in the impact, we make on the world around us. By planting seeds of legacy today, we can nurture a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.